The Blame Game

I created this illustration for a Bay Area News Group online special report published on Sunday, April 8. The Bay Area housing crisis! The influx of people from far and wide coming for jobs in the high-tech industry! Real estate developers and City Hall at odds as to how to create more homes! Greedy landlords and tree-hugging environmentalists gumming up the works! Bay Area residents looking on helplessly and in horror as traffic gets worse and worse... and worse!

All those topics (and more!) have been herded into one story by ace business and real estate reporter Marisa Kendall, and you can read her excellent work right here! She's done a heckuva job and really touched a nerve with this effort.


Created in Illustrator. No Photoshop, no MangaStudio! Pure vector, which is so unlike me that friends may worry.


The webpage was arranged and designed by graphics chief, the great Pai Wei. I have another little explainer graphic set up like a slide-show about halfway down the page. It's a series of spot illustrations and all of the heavy lifting (meaning the writing) was also done by Marisa Kendall.


Hindsight afterword:

Ugh! There are a few of annoying tangents that I missed but otherwise, I'm pretty pleased with how it came out. There were so many iterations of this concept and design that I probably was a bit snowblind when the deadline arrived. "Huh? What? Yeah, I'm done. Here!Take it! Take it! I'm going home."

And I could have done better than just that gray-green color scheme for the board. I didn't want to make it too crazy colorful – and it was crazy colorful along the way – but, again, I was a bit burnt out and just waved it through.

Had a good time working on it, and as I said, I'm happy with it!


Tale of the Tape

Here is an illustration I created for the Mercury News a couple of weeks ago. Rather than try to explain what it's about, I'll just link to the special edition website with the whole story. It was written by Tracey Kaplan, an investigative reporter for the Merc and can be read here.

The great Pai Wei created the webpage.

Created in Photoshop.


It's a fab piece of journalism concerning a past incident of harassment and a possible cover-up by the Santa Clara County Sheriff. If you have any interest in such topics it's a great read, and – I almost never do this – I also recommend the comment section for a little extra spice.

Since this post is so light on detail about the creative process (not much time for it today) I'll show my rejected first effort here:

Drawn in Manga Studio and Photoshop
More art coming soon!

Vida Blue

More than just the name of a man, Vida Blue is a pleasant three syllable incantation that revives and resurrects early memories of watching baseball games with my father on a small black and white television. I was a seven-year-old baseball fan, and the early 1970s Oakland Athletics' cast of characters was a roll call of strange and catchy names: Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Blue Moon Odom, Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson.

Created with Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop. Open in a new window for a much larger image.

I suppose Reggie Jackson might sound pedestrian compared to the others, but he was such a great character and such a great player that "Reggie" became a name of royalty, and achieved an other-worldly mythic resonance.

The A's were a big deal when I was in elementary school. World Series champs three years in a row, and Vida Blue was my favorite, probably because he threw lefty like me.

I've contributed illustrations to the annual baseball magazine several times – The Mercury News baseball season preview mag – but this is the first time I felt personally connected to the topic. I was given a choice of stories to illustrate, but the instant I heard "Vida Blue" it was settled. I didn't even want to know the hook of the story, I was in.

The story's hook, though, helped me figure out what to do. Vida Blue Hit the Big Leagues in 1969 with the A's and served two stints with the San Francisco Giants, ending his career wearing the orange and black in 1986. Seventeen years, he pitched. Six-time All-Star, American League MVP and Cy Young winner in '71; he was the youngest American League player to win the MVP in the 20th century.

I didn't have all of that off the top of my head; I had to look it up. But personally, although the stats back up my impressions of him – his greatness as a player cannot be doubted – it is the sound of his name and the pleasant memories of watching the A's broadcasts with Pop on Saturday afternoons that I remember.

Pop and Kerr in 2020

Made this silly little drawing for the Mercury News sports section. It ran in print and online today, March 8, 2018. You can read the excellent story – written by the excellent Melissa Rohlin – by purchasing an archaic (or "retro-cool") printed-on-paper newspaper facsimile of the Mercury News or The East Bay Times at your local newsstand or – if you have no idea what I'm talking about – just click this link here!

It's a nice story about a couple of famous sports figures who, by all accounts, are pretty good guys, too.




Drawn and colored in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop.

Mariah's Story

This illustration ran with a story that was published on February 11th in the East Bay Times/Mercury News newspaper and website. Longtime colleagues Matthias Gafni and David DeBolt reported on this one, and they did a terrific job. You can read it online right here.

Open in a new window for a much larger image.

I worry when I'm tasked with creating illustrations for stories that are controversial or sad – it's too easy to offend; it's too easy to hit a bad note. I fear I might hurt the feelings of those who the story will impact if the people involved are victims of misfortune or tragedy, but there was no way out this time. The direction was suggested by the editors and after a teary reading of the first draft, the drawing began to take shape.

I found a picture of my daughter taken a couple of years ago when she was Mariah's age – there are so many of her on my phone – and used her body for reference. I drew a likeness of Mariah from the photos included with the story and merged it with the figure drawing. It was a sad process. I didn't like doing it at all.

The first pass of the drawing was initially in sepia and a bit of pink but, as you might imagine, it seemed awfully brown. I tried to find a way to bring in more color without softening the mood, and above is the final result. I'm glad it came out as rough and "unfinished" as it did and I'm pretty comfortable with its attitude. I'm happy with how it turned out, but looking at it does not make me happy.

I wasn't sure I was going to post this; it has been waiting in draft mode since, well, since a few days before publication. I didn't want to take the time to write about it. There's been too much bad news about little kids lately, but here it is. It's not comfortable but in light of the events of this week – more kids lost to gunfire in school – I thought I should show a little courage, a little courage for the kids that have been failed.

The end.


Messing Around With Moho

Here is a short animation I put together recently. I've been working on the character and the background during quiet moments; finally put them together and made them move and wiggle with Moho Pro 12 (formerly Anime Studio.)



I can't describe the joy I felt when – after days of frustration and study – I got the rigging and switch layers to work. Not an exciting animation I guess, but hey! Progress!

*      *      *      *

This is not a commercial, but:

Years ago I bought Anime Studio, eager to try animating on a computer. The learning curve was steep. I had no digital animation experience and no friends with a shared interest. That left me sitting alone, reading the pdf instruction booklets and trying to mimic written tutorials. YouTube had very few instructional videos at the time, and those I found weren't much help.

I managed to fight my way through the fog and put together a modest project or two – each one running about ten seconds – but there was a lot of trial and error. It was fun in the way that learning new things is always fun, but I burned way too much time trying to do more advanced things without being able to do the basic things consistently.

Recently I ran across the Udemy site, and they had a sale on Moho courses: "The complete rigging course – Moho & Anime Studio" by McCoy Buck, and "Anime Studio Pro 11 – A practical training course," credited to Simply edukator.*

They really did the trick for me.

I know, I know... there are dozens of tutorials on YouTube now, and most of the information is out there, but the structured courses nail the tips in place. When I (frequently) forgot how to flexi-bind or bind a switch-layer folder to a bone, it was easy to find my way back to the video that shows you how, and the videos are about 5 minutes a piece so it's not difficult to scrub through and find the relevant info. That's just one example; I was frequently baffled and forgetful, and I never had to thrash about blindly hoping to find the solution to what was vexing me.

And the courses cover a lot of topics you won't even know about if you're like me and your attention wanders while you read through the SmithMicro Moho 12 Tutorial manual. That is one tough manual for a newb.

McCoy Buck has put some chapters from his course on his YouTube channel so you can check out his teaching style there; the Udemy site also has some samples. Again, highly recommended!


*At the time I'm publishing this post, I don't know the name of the person teaching the "Anime Studio 11 Practical Training Course," but when I find out, I'll edit his name in here and provide links if he has something to link to.

There's a whopping ten hours of video on that course, and I haven't gotten through half of it yet, but it was a huge help. Skimming over it again, I see a lot of things that I will be referencing in the future.

The End For Now

Another Silly Animation

Short post:
Made a silly little animation using MOHO 12 for a story that ran on the Mercury News website by longtime colleague Jessica Yadegaran. It was fun to cartoon it and lots of fun to make it move around a bit.














Drawn in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop.


Random Heads

Head sketches based on mugshots found on the innernetz. Used one those floppy brush pens that gush, dry out, gush, dry out. Hard to tell what you're going to get from beginning to end of each stroke. Great Fun! If that's your idea of fun. (I hate it.)


The End

Patio Sketch

Quick sketch on the patio early Saturday morn. Drawn in Clip Studio Paint on an iPadPro, puny size (get the big one if you want to draw on it; the small one is alright, but a bit frustrating) Took about 50 minutes. Stopped because it was COLD out there!


The End

Animation Experiment

Another short animation experiment, using Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint and MOHO (Anime Studio.)  Ten seconds, looped a couple of times. Nothing special, just working things out.


The End.

Tuneup for Bay Area Transit

This illustration was created for a story about possible fixes for the S.F. Bay Area transit system in the years and decades to come. The article was written by the excellent Mercury News transportation reporter Erin Baldassari and you can read Erin's story here.

Drawn in Clip Studio Paint EX and Photoshop. Open in a new window for a fairly huge image.

There was a late change of direction as to how to present the story in the print edition, so I had less than one shift to put this together. That's not a terrible thing – nor is it completely unusual – but it certainly isn't ideal. That being said, illustration opportunities have been rare lately, and I have been hoping for something fun to work on; I flinched at the frighteningly imminent deadline, but quickly found myself lost in the joy of drawing.

This is the initial rough, using screenshots, doodles
and a converted-from-Illustrator map, created in Photoshop.

I doodled an idea, consulted with my graphics partners during our afternoon meeting, implemented their suggestions, and produced the rough above for editorial approval. While it was going through the approval process, I started the final; that's standing operating procedure in the shadow of a falling deadline. In that situation, you have to hope that it gets a pass, but always be thinking about other solutions while you work, because it's never a given. Made it this time, tho.

It's not a great little cartoon but I had fun doing it. I ran smack into the end of my day and sent the illustration to the page designers without much time (or energy) for tidying it up. Of course, the story held for a few days, but I had a some time off and was out of the loop, so I couldn't do any polishing. 

Here is how it looked it print.

The End!

Old Reject

I found another old scribble in the archive. This was a rejected sketch proposal for a story about genetic engineering. I didn't post the final version when I finished it back in 2015. My recollection is that I didn't like it much. And looking at it again, looking at it now, I can't bring myself to bother to show it. It's just not very good.

In the project folder are a few files that show the struggle of creation for that underwhelming piece and it's clear it did not come easy and when it was done, it wasn't worth the effort. But there is one lonely drawing amongst the clumsy flailings that seems complete and dignified. It's not that great either, but it stands alone; no sketches to betray its construction, no copies showing other possibilities explored.

Drawing in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop!

The patch of white probably indicates where to put the story and headline. I can't imagine it would work like this, though. I offer it as a curiosity and to add a fresh and wheezy breath to a tired old blog.

The End!

"...So everybody knows they love each other."

The character on the right began as an absent-minded doodle. It was a simple line drawing but he looked fun and quirky-cool to me, so I thought I'd render him a little bit and throw on some color, just for kicks. As I worked, my five-year-old daughter walked up and eyed him cautiously. "Is he... is he scary?" she asked.

I had to admit, he was creepy; but I explained in soothing tones that he was a good fellow, he just looked different. He probably had friends and a job, I said, and maybe even a girlfriend. With wary curiosity, she asked: "What does his girlfriend look like?" And thus my aimless doodle became a serious project with a built-in impatient audience fused with a potentially fussy art director.

I pondered the problem of a girlfriend for the creepy fellow, and – after a rough sketch and a few refinements – my daughter's tone changed; she approved of the pairing and thereafter regarded them both with convivial kindness. My daughter argued forcefully that the girlfriend should be all pink, every bit of her – horns to shoes! I suggested that pink skin could be enough pink, and I pointed out that the front of her dress kind of looked like a tulip. That was met with approval and did the trick!

Open in a new window for a much larger image.

As I worked on the finishing touches my daughter said to me, "Be sure to put a heart up in the air above them!"

Puzzled by this sudden introduction of more work, I growled and asked. "A heart? Up in the air? Why?"

"You have to put a heart above them so everybody knows they love each other!"

"Hmm," I said, eyes narrowing with mischevious intention. "Good idea!"

And just so you don't think I'm a completely horrible father, the finished drawing – the one I've shown to her – is below. 


Drawn in Clip Studio Paint EX and Photoshop.

The End.

Four for the Price of One

Here is another post featuring past work. I don’t believe I’ve addressed any of these projects here, altho I might be wrong about that. If so, I’ll adjust this entry later.

The “Marriage under reconstruction” and “Holiday headache” pieces are from 2013. Remembrances of the creation of either of them are wispy, vague. Sometimes, looking back on old work – even small, informal sketches – I can recall where I was, what I was snacking on, things I was thinking about while doodling; other times I might not remember squat about a larger piece that clearly took much time.

For “Marriage…” I have next-to-nothing in the memory bank. Hmm. That’s kind of me as a model on the right, except skinnier and taller; so much so that it doesn't look like me at all. I used the excellent pencil tool in MangaStudio and most likely colored it in combination with Photoshop.

For “Holiday Headache” I have a recollection of drawing a tiny, sinister looking face on the figure in the house behind the curtain. You probably can’t even see the figure in the image here – click on the images to embiggen. I got rid of the face when I realized how small it would be in print.





 “It takes a neighborhood” ran in 2015. I intended to have the little old lady falling from above and the neighbors looking up, ready to catch her with the safety net. That was probably too silly for the story, or maybe it was an unnecessary hassle to design a page layout that way.

“Yoga takes you higher” was great fun! I don’t know why I didn’t put this up before. Maybe I thought it was too goofy, or maybe the process was so easy and simple that I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say.  "It was fun to do and it was over way too quickly! I made a John Lennon style cartoon and then spent most of the time trying to get the spattery effect looking alright." Yeah, that's about it.

More art soon... maybe even NEW art! (Maybe.)

P.S. I included the layouts this time because, in each case, they clearly improve the art. Ahem, well, that might be the case all the time, but I re-discovered these while looking at full-page pdfs from the archive and I liked them better than when I saw the illustrations alone.

The page designer for all of these is, most likely, longtime colleague Jennifer Schaefer, who has improved (or saved!) many many many of my efforts.


Long Time No Blog

I found this on my work computer the other day. It was a brainstorm/rough for a story about women students making inroads into college classes overwhelmingly populated by men, I believe. This was several years ago, and I don't remember how it all played out. This idea wasn't pursued and I didn't do anything else for it. But I kind of like it in this slovenly, ragged form.


My blog-drought has lasted so long because I haven't been drawing much, and nothing I've created for my job recently has been spiffy enough to write about. Another art-slump, I guess.

I've tried to get the personal work going but  – whenever I crack my knuckles and sharpen my pencils and tape the paper to the drawing board and adjust the lights and knead my kneaded eraser into the perfect shape and go get a coffee and come back and crack my knuckles again – I'm beset by distractions and inconveniences both imaginary and actual (though I cannot perceive the difference until later.)

My quiver of excuses is deep and the lure of spending the final conscious hour of my day lying in bed, thumbing through old comic books, is strong. Oh, and pinball on the iPad; that's another bedtime thing. And CataclysmDDA. And Pathos. And Twitter-skimming. Settling down to sleep can be a time-suck for me.

It's nice to be posting something again, tho. I'd like to do more of it real soon...



Pot Savvy Seniors

Here is an illustration I put together for the July 6th Mercury News front.  The story, by longtime colleague Sam Richards, is here. He does good work, that guy!

I created a silhouette of a rocking chair, took a photo of wood grain and applied it to the silhouette. Then I went in and shaded it to give it some form. The seat cushions have a bit of burlap texture and a silly little pattern I made in illustrator.

Open in a new window for a larger image


It's a pretty simple idea and execution, although it took me a while to come up with it. Here is how it looked on the page:


That's all for now!

More Dubs vs. Cavs

Here's a collage, arranged for a Mercury News special section preview of the 2017 NBA Championship. I know, I know – that was weeks and weeks ago, but I've been lazy about the Blogspot upkeep.

Photos: Mercury News ace, Nhat V. Meyer; AP guy, Marcio Jose Sanchez;
Jason Miller working for Getty Images

As usual, I didn't have much time to work on this assignment, and – rather than try to do some elaborate drawing or cartoon – I thought it would be fun to use some photos and create something reminiscent of a rock poster. I was hoping to be a little edgier but, again, not much opportunity for exploring ideas. The image above is what ran in print.  

Below is a modest tweak for online presentation. Horizontal images are preferred for online, which is always an extra batch of work since one must squash and recompose the job as the deadline guillotine falls. There was an extra spoonful of disappointment when I realized it's more square than horizontal. Ah, well. It would make a pretty good CD cover.



The End.


The Warriors Again

This is slightly belated, but: The Golden State Warriors are the champs! Again! It felt weird typing that the last time (a couple of years ago) and it might be even more bizarre now since it looks like it could be an annual occurrence. The past few decades have been grim for those of us who have a sentimental attachment to the ancient days of Clifford Ray and Rick Barry, or the exciting years spent with Run TMC. I don't follow the NBA like I used to but it's cool to see "Golden State Warriors" and "champions" in the same sentence.

We won't mention what happened last year, tho, 'kay?


When it became a distinct possibility that the Warriors might sweep their way through the playoffs, I started to work on this illustration, but it looked like the image below.


It became clear halfway through the fourth quarter of game four that LeBron wasn't going to let such a historic feat happen on his watch; and that was a bit of a relief for me, since I would have had to finish the illustration by the next day for use in the Sunday publication.  

I used the extra shift to re-think it a little bit, and to focus on coloring, which is the most time consuming part of the drawing process, in most cases.

Sooper-Man

Just a quick post to jolt the blog back to life. I'm still goofing around with Anime Studio/Moho in my spare time, of which there has been very little. Haven't animated anything yet but I'm re-learning how to rig stuff. Here is a quick figure I drew for practice, but I haven't animated him yet.


The End!



Test Run

Purchased the latest Moho/Anime Studio update. Very cool, but I've forgotten what I learned back when I purchased an earlier version a few years ago. Can't figure out the freakin' walk-cycle to save my life, altho I had that down once upon a time. The rigging tools have stymied me, as well; and all of the youtube tutorials have left me in the lurch. Grr.



So, this is all I've figured out so far, and it's something I could've done in Photoshop, but it's as far as I've gotten. Imagine the horse is a fully rigged silhouette that gallops along until it gets down to the water. Then it steps carefully in before accelerating offscreen, stage left.

The art is a discarded piece I made a year or two ago, but I had to extend it quite a bit to fit the screen size, spending more time painting than learning how to animate. Bad planning. Again. More soon, unless I toss the computer through the window.

The End

Super WiFi

I created this illustration for a story by the always informative Troy Wolverton of the Mercury News, and you can read his most excellent work at this link. The image was drawn and painted in Clip Studio Paint with a bit of Photoshop.

Open in new window for a larger image.

After struggling for some time with a workable concept for the topic, I decided to create a simple parody (or homage) of the movie poster for the first Christopher Reeve "Superman" movie. My first submission to the editors was basically the sky and the emblem. Mr. Wolverton wrote: "Maybe the shield could be at Superman's farm out in rural Kansas? Like a lonely homestead out on the prairie?"

The scene where Pa Kent dies in front of the barn immediately leapt to mind. That shot – the barn, the house, the windmill, – I've always thought it was lovely. So, I tracked it down through the magic of Netflix and painted it in at the bottom.

Horizontal re-working for the online presentation.


I wanted to do an animated version, too; but it was long past the print deadline. In fact, I didn't get it done until... well, until just now!





Whoosh! That's all I've got for today.




Lois & Clark

Goofing around with the Clip Studio Paint drawing program. Touch of Photoshop for color tweaking.



This was part of the brainstorming work while trying to come up with an idea for an illustration to accompany a story about super wi-fi. Nothing came of this doodle.

Hey! It's That Guy, Again

Gotten a lot of mileage out of this president already. How many Obama-related assignments did I get over the previous eight years? Hm. Nothing on my blog, far as I can tell. I had a couple, I think, that I didn't get around to posting, but The Donald has been way more... "interesting," I guess.

Illustration for the Sunday, March 12 front page
of the Mercury News and the East Bay Times.
Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint Pro.

I am not a big practitioner of the photo-heads on cartoon bodies manner of working – I prefer to caricature – but it saved me a lot of time and I liked the way it turned out. I found a much better, sinister, laughing Kim Jong-Un head shortly after I sent the image to the designer for the final time, but there was a flurry of re-sizing and redrawing to fit a late size-change and I couldn't bring myself to give it one last tweak.

More Head Sketches, Screen Captured!

Goofing around with Photoshop, Premiere, iMovie, GarageBand and the YouTubes. Whole lotta For Dummies manual-reading going on around here.




It was fun to do this but there was a really crappy lag while filming. (Videoing?) Not great drawings but, of course, I got nervous because I always do when somebody might be watching. I got through it. Hope to do more silly stuff like this.

A Character Doodle

Rather than scratch out more head doodles (see several recent posts) I thought I'd do a full-figure character drawing. It occurred to me to illustrate a character from a game I've been goofing around with.

Anybody play "Cataclysm, Dark Days Ahead?" Here is my interpretation of my latest character as he looked before leaving his recently acquired farmhouse to desperately search for pots and pans to cook with. I think he got the purse off of a little zombie school-girl he dispatched, with great remorse.

The shirt is pinker than intended. Pretend it's more crimson colored. Thanks.

This is Moses Duvall, and he recently survived a Moose attack. Don't laugh. An angry moose is serious trouble and Moses was lucky to escape with his life. While he healed, he spent several days coping with a nasty bout of the common cold. Then he suffered a serious infection from a deep bite wound received during a melee with several zombies. (That's possibly when he scored the purse.)

Cataclysm DDA is a game I've had on the iPad for well over a year, and only recently have I learned how to make it go, although I'm far from being successful at it.

Mr. Duvall has avoided death for twelve days, game time. In my short CDDA career that's a pretty good run. He spends most of his time dressing his wounds, scrounging for wild vegetables in the bushes, and boiling toilet water to make it safe to drink. Yeah, you have to do that. It's all about surviving any way you can. And run like hell if you see a moose.

The End.